XIV Pleasant Memories
Head Gardener's cottage, Haines Hill c.1900
Hurst Football Club, 1908-9. Winners of Wargrave and District League.
Hurst Cricket team, early 1900s.
Tug o' War contests were a popular sport in the 1920s. Bill Rouse (left) coached
Hurst Cricket team at Stanlake Park. The three at the centre are Effie Barker,
Harvest Home, Haines Hill, 1911
On the whole, people have pleasant memories of the their life in the parish. From 1880 to 1919 the vicar was the Rev. Edmund Broome. Mr. Wimberley, who succeeded him wrote:
Mr. Broome loved this place and we owe him a great debt today for the ceaseless care he bestowed on preserving and improving the church property committed to his trust.
Mr Loader at Church Farm, 1977
Mr. Loader, who lived at Church Farm during the last century, could also remember the vicar:
Broome, he was quite an elderly man [he was born in about 1844] but he was very good in the village, to the poor, I think he was a rich man himself and he didn't like to see any one very poor, and he helped them out. He had a bicycle, a lot of people couldn't afford a bicycle.
Families tended to be much larger. It was common to have eight or more children, and the schools had to cope with increasing numbers. The boys and infants school combined could hold a total of 200 children, and the average attendance in 1911 was 60 boys, 70 girls, and 40 infants. Mrs. Amy Record looked after the infants, Miss Edith Whinny the girls, while Francis Child taught the boys. Both Mr. Cooper, who lived in Davis Street, and Mr. Loader attended the village school when Mr Child was the master. They both confirmed that he and Miss Whinny were very strict and not at all popular with the children.
Miss Amy Record with the infants school
Mr Chalker's shop, Hurst (click for picture of street)
Salter Chalker, the son of John W. S. Chalker, who was a baker and grocer in Hurst, became one of the more notable and respected residents. He bred prize cattle, and won numerous cups and medals which filled several rooms of his house. He did a great deal of research on cattle diseases and made journeys abroad at the request of foreign governments to advise them in animal husbandry. He was very proud of the M.B.E. which he received for his services to farming.
Thirsty villagers outside the Green Man, Hinton Road.
George Bullock used to run a bakers shop at Whistley Green, and Gilbert White remembered a story about him. He used to go round the village delivering bread, as an extra service he used to weigh the babies on the bread scales. As for his son Sam Bullock, everyone remembers him, especially Mr. Loader:
He was the largest baker round here, his father used to bake bread at the Halfway House, I can remember him coming round with his two wheeled cart swinging about and his beard hanging down, he was a great big man. His son took after him, Sam Bullock, his son, used to be called the 'Mayor of Hurst'. He kept the Cricketers after that. He was in everything, he wrote poetry about Hurst.
Many people have confirmed what likeable and famous characters Sam and his father George Bullock were. Hurst Cricket Club, now greatly respected in the area, owes the family a debt. George Bullock once took five wickets with five successive balls and was known as the W.G. Grace of village cricket.
Mr. Cooper was in his 80s when he remembered what life on the farms was like when he was young:
A man's wage if he worked on the farm, say he was a herdsman, his money was sixteen to eighteen shillings a week, ordinary day men was less that that. It was a hard time but people seemed to enjoy themselves more than they do now, but if we had those times now we would think it was terrible. My father used to sell and cut hay for all the farms, he used to cut the hay after it was put into the rick loose, and they used to build the big square rick and they used to have a big knife, and slice it down and make a truss, 2 feet by 3 feet, and 3 strings put round it and it was pressed in a hand operated machine, and it cut out beautiful oblong trusses, all the same thickness. The skill of the men in those days, they used never to have any loose ends kicking about, when it was stacked on the railway truck or wagon, it used to be like one square block. That was all the year round because he did for the farms. When the 1914 war broke out George Ford sold hay to the government, for all the government horses, so they were very busy then, they had to get extra men cutting the ricks out.
Left: Valley Nurseries, Whistley Green. Right: Thomas Carlile, founder of Carlile's Nursery, Twyford.
Proof of the good rich soil of the area is found in the number of nurseries that were established here; Valley Nurseries, Whitfields, Carlile's, Waterers and Kennedys. In 1937 E. J. Whitfield took over the Whistley Green nursery that had been previously run by the Scott brothers. The Twyford by-pass was opened in 1922 and this provided Thomas Carlile, a firm founded in 1920, with a good site for their nursery specialising in herbaceous plants. At one time he grew over 2,000 lupins and delphiniums. He also did landscaping and he made the Twyford Bowling Green. Waterers, the forerunners of Kennedys, had been in business for over 100 years at Knaphill and Bagshot. They opened a nursery at Twyford specialising in bearded irises. In spring and summer, fields of colourful flowers stretched either side of the road attracting the attention of passing motorists, and others came just to see the spectacle. This part of the Bath Road became known as 'Waterer's Floral Mile'.
Hurst was at one time famous for its roses; roses grown here have been sent round the world. The author personally met a Scottish Doctor who was leading a team of scientists endeavouring to find a cure for malaria in the Gambia, a small West African country. At his home in Bathhurst, then the capital, the doctor had filled the garden with roses, all growing in tubs made out of old oil drums, such an unusual sight in an African country. Asked where he obtained his roses he replied, 'Elisha Hicks' nursery in Hurst'. Mr, Loader remembered Elisha Hicks:
Elisha Hicks, he would change a penny for two half-pennies so that he could rattle it. He came to Wargrave Road, in Twyford, took a pub and had half an acre and started his rose growing. And then he came under the council and took that part by the school, eventually he bought it, moved over here and he took the whole farm over. He was employing 20 when the first war broke out.
In 1914 Queen Alexandra said of 'Mr. George Norwood,' one of Mr.Hicks's roses: 'It was a most beautiful rose, its fragrance made it a rose that would appeal to all lovers of England's premier flower.' Regretably Mr Hicks's rose growing nursery closed in the 1970s.
Elisha Hicks, 3rd from the left, amongst his roses
Making button holes at Mr Hicks' nursery
Mr. Cooper was a member of the Hurst troop of boy scouts and when the First World War was declared in 1914 he was camping with the club at Bexhill in Sussex. The scout master, Mr. Heath, who was also a school master, was well liked by all the boys. He told the boys that because of the war they may have to walk home. Mr Cooper said he rather fancied the idea, marching home behind the bugle, but it did not come to that. In the end they were all brought home by train. He was too young to join the army but many lads from the village did and some even made false statements about their age in order to join. For many of them it was the first time they had been away from home, and the first money they had earned. Each lad on joining had to see Captain Godsal at Haines Hill, and he gave them a pound each, 'a lot of money in those days'.
Salter Chalker recalled his experiences at that time:
I was the first volunteer from Hurst to join the army, half a dozen joined directly after, I went to Reading market, and they asked for volunteers who could ride and shoot for the army. It was August, at the beginning of August 1914. I went to see Col. Weebly at Early, because he was doing this exercises, he pulled me in to tea, I was a bit nervous. He took me to Reading barracks after tea and he said to the doctor, I want you to pass this boy for the army. The doctor passed me quite fit, I had to put my uniform on and cycle back on Sunday afternoon and there was Ernest Lloyd, Wally Marlum and a bunch of boys standing at the corner when I came down, they saw me and I got off and spoke to them and they went the next day. I joined the Royal Horse Artillery.
Mr. Cooper joined the Royal Engineers in 1917 with a letter of recommendation from Captain Godsal. Like Salter Chalker he remembers Captain Thomas Godsal's kindness after the war:
When I came out of the Army Captain Godsal had put by a small farm, Wards Cross Farm, for a deserving soldier coming out of the army, and I applied for it and got it, if ever I blessed a man!
There were still plenty of horses working the farms as steam and petrol driven engines were not widely used. Village blacksmiths, so much a part of the English countryside, were still in demand. Mr. Cooper spoke about the last of the blacksmiths in Hurst and it seems the White family had already sensed the decline in that trade:
And the blacksmith's shop down here in Davis Street, he opened at six and finished at six, didn't matter whether it was winter or summer you could always hear the old anvil going about quarter past six in the morning.
During the war, the first world war, when they had all the horses in the army, they used to make shoes for the army, and the boys from the village used to go nights and drill the holes in the shoes to put ice studs in for the horses not to slip, it was quite fun really you know, though you wouldn't think so now.
There was old Alfred White, he was the old blacksmith when I was a boy that I can first remember, had a beard, when the petrol engines came around and people had cars, there was no garages with pumps. He used to store two gallon cans in a special shed, and deliver them round the village. He used to have one of those old De-Deons, with a single cylinder, and he used to tut-tut-tut all round the village delivering the cans of petrol.
And the old man, he was warden at the church, used to do all the graves and all, and he used to feed the pony with the grass mounds; while he was doing all this his son was doing the blacksmith's job.
At the far end of Hurst, you go on towards the petrol station [now rebuilt as houses], and Mrs Cox lives on the right hand side of the road, and on the side of the house is a garage, and that used to be a blacksmith's shop. Mr. Cox was the blacksmith and Mrs. Cox was a Miss Chalker.
Mr. Lee of Leas Farm came to Hurst from Woodley in 1931 and remembers:
Villagers were much more involved with village life than they are now, there was whist drives, concert parties, ... there was sport of all kinds, there was cross country races between all the villagers every Easter.
It was predominantly a farming village, School Road had mainly meadows on either side, where many houses are now it was just fields. Tape Lane had only a few houses near to the Cricketers. All the gentry in those days played cricket, they took part in everything that was going on in the village, the gentry in those days were very much more involved than what they are today. ... everybody knew one another then.
William Green, with
his donkey and cart, was a familiar sight in the village